Six Questions With ... The Alarm

Rhyl calling!

It rained in Washington yesterday. In the summertime. Perfect!

Because Mike Peters of the Alarm was calling, and as anybody who knows anything about '80s Welsh rock recalls, the Alarm had a hit 21 years ago - on both sides of the pond - with the anthemic, U2ish "Rain in the Summertime." (Weren't all Alarm songs anthemic and U2ish?)

The Alarm lives on, via VH1 Classic, modern-rock radio flashback segments and beer commercials (Heineken licensed the Alarm's "68 Guns" for an ad campaign). It also exists again in real time: The band, which broke up in 1991, has resurfaced, with its frontman Peters leading a new configuration of musicians into the studio and onstage as the Alarm.

A punky new Alarm album, "Guerilla Tactics," was just released via the band's Web site, and they'll perform tonight at the 9:30 club, as part of the "Rockin' the Colonies" tour, which also features the Fixx and Dave Wakeling's latest version of the English Beat.

Peters, 49, songwriter, singer, survivor, recovering hairspray addict. Go.

"Guerilla Tactics" is fully of spiky songs like "Three Sevens Clash." And you put out that great, slashing single, "45 RPM," a few years back under a pseudonym, the Poppy Fields. Aren't you supposed to mellow as you age?
(Laughs.) I suppose you are, but so much has happened to me in recent times that it's just informed my music in this sort of upbeat kind of way. I've been through a lot of personal battles, and that's just the music that came out of the situation.

It's no secret that you've been battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia. You've written songs about it, there was a BBC documentary and you started the cancer-fighting foundation, Love Hope Strength. How are you feeling?
Good. I'm in great shape. I'm not cured, but I'm in remission. I still receive treatment every few months, but the outlook is fantastic for me. It's a disease I'll die with with rather than of; I know that for certain. I don't let it affect me. I live my life and just have it in the background. But I suppose the danger for me is catching ordinary, everyday illnesses. If I don't catch them early on, if I don't monitor them properly, they can turn into something serious because I don't quite have the immune system that a normal person has.

Do you shake fewer hands then, for fear of picking something up?
Yeah, my wife's always telling me don't shake hands. But it's very hard for me not to do it, you know what I mean? You don't want to appear rude. But I always carry bottles of First Defense around with me to spray on my hands afterwards and things like that.

What do you miss least about the 80s: The constant U2 comparisons or that hair?
(Laughs.) I think we're responsible for the hole in the ozone layer with all the hairspray we used. I'm glad I don't have to run out to the Target store every day on tour to stock up. I'm glad that part's over. But it was a fantastic time; the '80s were great to the Alarm. But then the '90s came along and Nirvana blew us all out of the water.

As you've toured with both Bob Dylan and U2, I was going to ask you which artist you admire more until I saw that you have a son named Dylan but not one named Bono.

(Laughs.) That's very observant, yeah. But to be honest, I was thinking more of Dylan Thomas.

It's a Welsh thing! In a poll a few years ago, you rated 11th among the top 100 Welsh Heroes, which is pretty great. But Tom Jones was eight slots ahead of you. How did that sit with you?
Well he's got a bigger fan base in the upper 60s than I have. (Laughs) I've got a few old ladies that like me, but he's got lots. But really, it was kind of weird to be that high on the list. You don't think of yourself in those terms at all as you're struggling through life, going through the things you go through, and all of a sudden you pop up on a list. How did I get in there?

By J. Freedom du Lac |  July 10, 2008; 12:14 PM ET Interviews
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100 Welsh Heroes - now that's a fun list!

Where's Ryan Giggs? And how come Ian Rush and Mark Hughes don't even crack the Top 50?

Posted by: Football Nut | July 10, 2008 3:28 PM

While I appreciate you giving some space to my favorite band, The Alarm, why did you have to go back to the predictable U2 comparison? Can't you be creative and not rely on the same old, same old?
"Weren't ALL Alarm songs anthemic and U2ish?" NO, they weren't. You even mentioned U2 in two of the questions. Get over it already and let The Alarm stand on their own without the overplayed U2 reference.
Listen to their music. It's nothing like U2 these days. One of those bands hasn't forgotten how to rock. Hint: It's the one with the new album that radio stations should play and people should listen to.

Posted by: NYC Tim | July 12, 2008 9:04 PM

Thanks to the Post and J. Freedom du Lac for covering a great band continuing to make inspiring music. Keep up the timely coverage.

I was at the show at the 9:30 Club and found the new album, Guerilla Tactics, amazing live.

I agree with NYC Tim that the multiple U2 references were too much. The singer Mike Peters was in good humor about it, though it's one of the great injustices of the industry that the Alarm, who influenced U2 as much as anything, are seen in that band's shadow.

Next time you can hopefully get deeper!

Posted by: Scott D | July 20, 2008 11:34 PM

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